Scott Wingo plops down next to a teary-eyed kid. The boy is distraught after being unable to hit a home run during a competition at the Wilmington Sharks youth baseball camp.
Wingo asks why he’s crying. It doesn’t take long before Wingo has him laughing. A few jokes, a little playful razzing and a challenge to go shag fly balls is all it takes to cheer him up. The child sprints back to the dugout, grabs his glove and joins the other campers.
“I was just trying to help a kid, laugh with a kid, have fun,” Wingo said of the moment.
Wingo still has a lot to learn about coaching, which is why he’s in Wilmington. But it’s obvious he understands baseball and players, no matter the age.
After finishing up his degree at South Carolina this spring, Wingo accepted Parker Bangs’ offer to work as an assistant for the Coastal Plain League team this summer. Wingo spent two summers in the CPL, playing for the Columbia Blowfish and Gastonia Grizzlies during his college days.
It’s that experience that Bangs, a former teammate at South Carolina, was looking to draw on. In Bangs’ inaugural season with the Sharks, the team was last in batting average, hitting .234. This past week, the Sharks were third in the CPL with a .274 average.
“I like looking out for my buddies, especially when I know they’re going to help us out,” Bangs said. “Figured I’d bring in as many hitting coaches as I possibly could to help out. It’s nice to have a guy who has been there and done it.”
The 2011 College World Series most outstanding player gave up playing after more than two decades between the lines. He wasn’t ready to give up the game.
South Carolina baseball coach Chad Holbrook brought Wingo back to the program this past spring so he could finish up his retail degree while working as a student assistant. Wingo was given the opportunity to train players, run batting practice and coach first base. He got a taste for what it was like being a college baseball coach.
“I had a feeling coaching was something I was going to want to get into,” Wingo said with a laugh.
Working with Holbrook and Bangs has given Wingo insight on what it’s like to manage a team. He’s absorbing as much as he can on how to motivate players.
As a player, Wingo labeled himself a “high-energy guy.” Being a coach requires a different approach, something he’s learning and trying to develop.
“I just try to chill out a little bit and realize you’re going to fail a lot in this game and try to make those guys understand that,” Wingo said. “When you get into a big moment, stay within yourself, have a plan. If you go up there without a plan, that’s when you start taking bad swings.”
Wingo is weighing options for his future. He’s been in talks with North Greenville coach Landon Powell about joining his staff as a graduate assistant. It would give him a chance to get his master’s degree and continue learning how to coach.
While he soaks in the skills it takes to be a coach, his players are soaking in what it takes to compete at the highest level of baseball from someone who has been to the pinnacle.
A two-time national champion and former minor leaguer, Wingo’s background carries weight with the young talent who are eager to get where he has been.
“Even how young he is, he knows so much about the game that a kid like me can just take so much and learn from it,” South Carolina freshman Alex Destino said. “He’s been there, done it all. I love listening to him, I love learning from him. He’s still young. He knows the game in and out.”